About Me

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Bookkeeper, tax preparer, cat lady, blogger, organizer, mystery writer.

Welcome!

I've finally decided that I am a writer - all the other things I do just pay the bills. Someone eloquent once said that if you do what you love, the money will follow. Well, let's just see about that.

RIP Aggie

RIP Aggie
Aggie was my fifteen-year-old cairn terrier - or maybe I should say I was her 55-year-old person! She was my faithful companion, spoiled rotten and I am still trying to figure out what to do without her.

Peter the Cat...

Peter the Cat...
This is Peter the gingersnap tabby! He's seven years old and has just been promoted to Peter the Very, Very Good. He is working his way up to Peter the Great...

Bee - the Cat Who Came From Somewhere Else...

Bee - the Cat Who Came From Somewhere Else...
Bee is Peter's buddy. He's eight years old and has made himself right at home. I guess cats really do come in pairs or sets of three!

And Jasper makes three!

And Jasper makes three!
Jasper is our new guy - the Cat From Another Place. He's four years old and we think he likes it here - so far, so good!

Buzz about...

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Making a list...

and I'm sure I'll be checking it more than twice over the next several weeks.  Actually, this is the first time I've made a Christmas to-do list in a long time.  I haven't been in much of a holiday mood by the time December rolled around over the past few years.  I'm not sure if I've just been sad or mad or maybe just not mended yet.  Somehow this year seems different; I'm not sure why, but I am thankful for this feeling of Christmas anticipation.  I almost want to throw open the window and shout, "I"m back!"  I know I won't, but that doesn't mean I won't still feel like it.  Christmas is coming and I have things to do!

Anyone who really knows me well is aware of how much I love Christmas - I inherited the joy gene from my dad.  This was a man who loved everything about the Christmas season: the birth of the King, decorating, Christmas carols, baking, shopping, playing Santa - for us and for those much less fortunate than we were, his Johnny Cash Christmas album - even untangling Christmas lights.  Most of November was spent planning the year's holiday extravaganza - but Daddy's most important task was finding the perfect family for his secret Santa program.  I guess I should give you the back story on my father's annual holiday tradition - as important to him as making sure the train under the tree made the rounds of his carefully placed Christmas village.

When I was eight and we were living in Hyannisport, about a week before Thanksgiving, Daddy had a serious heart attack.  He was unable to return to work for a good long while - medical care not being nearly as advanced as it is now.  I'm sure my eight-year-old self didn't realize how bad things really were - Christmas was coming after all.  One day, after the decorations were up, the stockings were hung and Christmas vacation had begun, there was a knock at the door.  My sister and I ran to open it - and there stood a tall, elegant lady in a mink coat.  "Does Charles Marshall live here?" she asked.  "Yes," I answered while my three-year-old sister screamed, "Daddy! Daddy!" and ran for the kitchen.  With that, the lady turned to the big black car parked at the curb in front of our little red brick house at 95 Smith Street and to the uniformed chauffeur, wearing a hat no less, standing at attention near the rear passenger door.  She snapped her fingers at him - I'm not kidding - and he dutifully opened the trunk and began to carry gaily wrapped boxes festooned with holiday ribbons to our door.  By then my mother and father were behind us in the doorway.  "What is all this?" my momentarily dumbstruck father inquired.  Now the boxes full of food and other holiday treats were arriving as my sister and I looked on in wonder.  Had Santa come early?  Maybe this was Mrs. Claus - who knew?  My father, humbled by the amazing generosity of this woman, asked, "Who do we thank for these gifts?"  The lady smiled and said, "Many years ago, my husband was ill and out of work at Christmas time.  We were worried about how we were going to provide for our family, as I am sure you have been these past weeks.  One day, a couple we did not know came to our door, their arms laden with gifts of food and toys for our children.  When we asked their names and who we should thank for this kindness, they simply told us to pass it on when we were able.  And every Christmas since then, my husband and I have sought out a family in the same situation in which we had found ourselves all those years ago - and we have shared the gift of Christmas kindness.  So when you are able, pass it on."  She wished us a Merry Christmas and waved as her chauffeur opened the car door for her.  We had no idea who she was and we never saw her again - but that very next year, after we had moved to Florida, my father found a family that was experiencing hardship during the holiday season and he made sure we found a way to share our many blessings with a family less fortunate.

And so, for the next twenty years, Daddy's secret Santa program brought Christmas to families we did not know in the form of nourishment for both the body and holiday spirit.  I hope they have "passed it on" and shared the joy of giving.  I may have inherited the Christmas joy gene from him, but my father taught me the joy of sharing.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Wouldn't you love to live in St. Mary Mead?

I would simply adore having Miss Marple as a neighbor - imagine solving crimes over tea and cake!  While Agatha Christie's spinster super sleuth has been portrayed by many fine actresses, including Angela Lansbury, my favorite is Joan Hickson.  I just finished watching 4:50 from Paddington for about the tenth time.  It's such a great story and I notice new clues every time I watch it - Aggie's namesake is the master of the red herring.  My favorite Miss Marple story is Murder at the Vicarage, where she makes her debut - but all of the stories are great.  If you've never read a Marple mystery, pick one up - you won't be sorry.  And if you're in the mood for a great mystery movie, choose one of the BBC adaptations with Joan Hickson - excellent every time!  I think I'll head on back to St. Mary Mead and see who the latest victim is...

Monday, November 28, 2011

I've probably said this before...

but I love a porch.  I mean, who doesn't?  Shade from the sun, shelter from the rain, solitary space for an afternoon snooze - or a homey fresh air space to read the mystery du jour...  Of course, this one isn't mine - but my little screen porch isn't nearly this photogenic.  But the feeling is the same - a little oasis close to home.  Today's a little rainy - but not a bad day for a short sojourn in my own private outdoor space.  And that is definitely a good thing.

Friday, November 25, 2011

It's a Charlie Brown Christmas...

or at least it became one this afternoon when Ariela stopped by with the cutest little Fraser fir tree for me - just the right size for my table!  She and Marco and Baby had gone to Lowe's to buy their tree and decided that I needed one, too.  And a poinsettia for outside my door.  I have to admit that I was considering not decorating at all - but my sweet and thoughtful friends put a stop to that way of thinking.  They even got my boxes of ornaments out of the storage closet for me.  Now I have no excuse!  I'll just have to see if I can find a blue blanket to wrap around the bottom of the tree...

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A sweet surprise...

 Seriously - and if you've ever had one you know I'm not kidding - a peanut butter pie from Miller's Dutch Kitchen.  This place is well known around here for their pies and desserts; the food is good, but the pie is to die for.  We used to go there quite often - and oddly enough, they even have a special called The Double Pleaser: salad bar and a piece of pie.  Both are excellent - but so many choices on each menu!  My sweet friend Ariela and her family showed up at my door tonight bearing a peanut butter pie.  I couldn't talk them into sharing it since they hadn't eaten dinner yet, but I will find a way.  It's great - but you can overdose on it pretty quick.
 I'm going to Tom & Al's house for Thanksgiving tomorrow and I was going to take it with me - but Tom has already made two pies: pumpkin and lime-in-the-coconut.  Yes - I will find a way to share this pie with Ariela - but first I think I'll share a little piece with Aggie...

Monday, November 14, 2011

Well, I bought a mixer...

after having mixed everything by hand for the past three years.  I had a KitchenAid hand mixer that bit the dust after many years of faithful use.  When I moved from our house to the apartment, I didn't think I'd need a mixer, so I didn't replace it.  After having attempted to make a cake several weeks ago, I realized that I did indeed have need of a hand mixer and I set about searching for the best heavy duty motor in a hand mixer for the best price.  Enter this cute little Cuisinart 9-speed mixer, complete with a whisk beater and dough hooks!  It also has a plastic base that holds the power cord and the attachments.  Fits neatly in my baking cupboard - I love it!
Perhaps a little too much...
I decided to make good old-fashioned pound cake using my Grandma's recipe: a pound of flour, a pound of butter, a pound of sugar and a pound of eggs.  Apparently I beat that cake batter within an inch of its life because instead of being the dense cake I remember from my youth, it's light and fluffy.  Don't get me wrong - it tastes good, but it's more like chiffon cake than pound cake.  I guess that means the mixer works really well on dense batter.
I'll have to see how well it does with pumpkin bread...

Sunday, November 06, 2011

I have always loved the Saturday...

when Daylight Savings Time ends.  It's like the official beginning of Fall - and the bonus of that extra hour to do whatever you want.  Read for a little while longer before you go to sleep, watch a movie, stay up until two in the morning to change the clocks...  Seriously - when I was a kid my grandpa always stayed up until two to change all the clocks on the farm - like it was the law or something.  I was tempted this year, but I only made it until 1:30 - but then, it was actually only 12:30.  But I digress...  One of the best things about the end of DST, especially when I was a kid, was that coveted extra hour of sleep.  I come from a family of early risers; I am one as an adult, too - but when I was a kid, especially when I was a teenager, I would have given anything to sleep in on Saturdays, but that was never going to happen.  My dad would get up around five, make his first pot of coffee and enjoy the silence of the kitchen for about an hour.  He'd read, play with the cat or most of the time, I suspect, just ponder the nature of the universe - or whatever other computer geek thoughts he thought.  Then, around six, he'd head off to the shower and wake my mother.  And like most Southern households, when Mama is awake - everyone is awake.  During the school week I could understand getting up early - we had to leave the house with my dad because he dropped us off at school.  But on Saturdays - no rest for the wicked - or two kids who would have loved to sleep until at least eight - or even watch cartoons.  Nope - time to get up, get dressed and clean the house from top to bottom.  Never mind that I had dusted and polished all the furniture every day after school during the week or that I'd washed the entire kitchen every night after dinner, including washing the kitchen floor - Saturday was cleaning day and we were going to do our chores - because, you guessed it, when Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.  And then, once a year, came the day I lived for and with it, that extra hour's sleep.  And the fact that Mama couldn't do anything about it.  It was an untouchable hour of leisure and my slothful self enjoyed it every time it came around.  I still do.  Apparently, we never outgrow the need to defy our parents.  Or at least I haven't.
Did you make the most of your extra hour this year?

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Are these retailers crazy?

I keep seeing Black Friday ads - already!  It's not even Thanksgiving - what are they thinking?  Not long ago I was pleased to see a photo of a Nordstrom's door that  announced their intention not to decorate for Christmas until the appropriate time.  Good for them!  If I were inclined to shop, I'd shop there.  I think I've finally gotten sick of the all the commercialism in my old age.  Anyone who knows me will be the first to tell you that I do occasionally shop and that I like stuff - but over the past few years, I've gotten rid of junk I was hanging on to for whatever reason and pared my surroundings down to only the things I use and things I really like.  I have only shopped on Black Friday once in my life and I remember exactly when it was: twenty years ago.  I had gotten a flyer in the mail at the office about a special invitation-only sale at Burdine's (back before it was Macy's - it's been that long!) and so my mother and I drove off to the mall early on the appointed morning of the event and literally shopped until we dropped.  The sale at Burdine's was okay, but the real bargains were to be had at Belk (before it was Dillard's - Lord, I'm old!) and the best part was their free gift wrapping.  After a dinner at Cracker Barrel, Mama and I dragged ourselves and our gaily wrapped packages into the house - our holiday shopping complete a full month before Christmas.  It made the holidays seem sort of anti-climactic that year and I haven't done it - or spent as much - since.  I looked at a few of the ads online that promised Black Friday deals - and most of the stuff is just junk that kids will open, play with for a week or so, and then move on to something else - like the box it came in.  You can't go wrong with a good box, I always say.  I wish shoppers (and retailers) would forgo quantity for quality and be more generous with charitable giving.  But that's not going to happen, is it?  I wonder what would happen if a sizable portion of the population decided to boycott shopping on Black Friday - I'm going to do my part again this year.

Friday, November 04, 2011

I have absolutely no idea why...

I am always so happy when Friday arrives.  It's not like I've had some stressful, harrowing work week that is in dire need of a weekend.  Actually, every day is just about like any other for me - a few phone calls, some paperwork, some more paperwork, check the e-mail, still more paperwork, a final few phone calls and then it's time to snuggle up with Aggie & Peter on the sofa with a book.  Or I write for a while.  I am blessed with a relatively calm existence - for which I am very grateful, believe me.  The other day when I was out doing errands, I saw a sign with a statement that I have thought about quite a lot since: Beware the barrenness of a busy life.  Think about it; have you ever been so busy that you felt like you couldn't take on one more thing?  I have and in retrospect, those were the most miserable days of my life.  And those days went on for decades.  Over the past several years, I have learned to say no, respectfully decline requests, not answer the phone and generally ignore those social obligations in which I have no real interest.  Those uber-busy people who are out there dazzling their peers (or so they think) with their ability to multi-task and juggle a million obligations are probably secretly unhappy and wondering why their inner lives are so empty.  I am so thankful that I have finally learned contentment and that it is perfectly okay to just say no, to ignore a knock at the door or a ringing telephone, take a nap, read a book and to just do the best I can without sacrificing my sanity.  Yes, I'm thankful it's Friday, but tomorrow I'll be just as happy that it's Saturday...

Thursday, November 03, 2011

While I haven't officially...

jumped on the Nutella bandwagon, I did finally break down and buy a jar just to see what all the hoopla is about.  And for nearly five dollars, I thought to myself, it had better be good.  Aggie and I are peanut butter devotees (Peter Pan with honey, thank you!) and while we are always game to try something new, I wasn't too sure about the hazelnut flavor.  And then there's the chocolate factor for Miss Aggie, who is, contrary to her long-held belief, of the canine persuasion.  Our opinion: not great on bread.  At all.  Not bad on an apple.  Pretty good on an apple, actually.  But that doesn't mean I'm going to make a habit of eating it regularly.  It's altogether too, um - Canadian to suit me.  Weird in a an oddly attractive way.  Weird in an I-could-get-used-to-this sort of way.  Weird in a $21.95 for this book in the US and $29.95 in Canada sort of way.  Nope - when this jar of Nutella is empty, we're going back to good old American, plain brown, what-we're-used-to, $2.99 every day peanut butter.  I don't care what Aggie says.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

There's a new cast of characters...

in my head and they're spooky.  Well, not spooky, but Spooks as this show is known on the BBC.  MI-5 is one of the series you can watch for free on AmazonPrime - so obsessive compulsive that I am, I started with Season 1, Episode 1 and last night I just watched Season 7, Episode 6.  Yes, it's habit-forming.  One of the startling things about it, as opposed to American television, is that pivotal characters are killed off with alarming regularity.  Peter Firth is great as Sir Harry Pearce, the head of the British secret service and he is assisted in all things technical and espionage-related by Malcolm Wynn-Jones, played by an adorable Hugh Simon.  I am much more enamored of the older British gentlemen than I am the young ones, but then that's just me.  Matthew Macfayden of Pride & Prejudice fame (he was Mr. Darcy - not as good a Mr. Darcy as Colin Firth, but not bad) is Tom Quinn, the initial protagonist of the story.  He eventually suffers from spy game burnout and is replaced by MI-6 officer Adam Carter, played by Rupert Penry-Jones.  Adam has way too much angst to suit me - but who wouldn't, what with all the personal trials and tribulations he encounters.  When he's blown up by an IRA car bomb, leadership of Section D is taken over by Ros Myers - a super-spy with ice water flowing through her veins.  Can you tell I've really gotten into this show?  Anyhow, Richard Armitage has just joined the team as Lucas North - a spy who has come in from the cold, as it were in all his mysterious, blue-eyed, baritone glory.  And no, he's not as old as Harry or Malcolm, but he has great potential.  Seriously though, if you like the espionage genre of mysteries, check this out.  The last two seasons (9 and 10) are not available online yet, but I am hoping at least Season 9 will be by the time I finish watching Season 8.  Season 10 - the final series of the show - just concluded on the BBC, so I am sure it will be a while before I'll be watching that one.
And wondering: will Harry and Ruth ever get together?

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

I love the first day...

of a new month, don't you?  And it's even better if the first falls on a Monday - I don't know why - just the possibilities of a new month, starting on the first workday of a new week, I guess.  New months are especially exciting in the fall because of the feeling of renewal, at least for me.  The weather is cooler and then there's the anticipation of the holidays.  I am filling my fall cornucopia with gratitude for all of my many blessings. 

 

Oh, and Halloween candy is on sale for half-price at WalMart.  Just saying.